Friday, July 20, 2007

Working and Riding

They do mix. I'm not just talking about the ride to work or even as transportation to and from assignments. What I'm referring to is using the Vespa as a tool to do a better job.

The Luna Moth carcass I saw on the ground is one of those little details that are easy to miss if you aren't paying attention. And there are things to see everywhere. Little hidden stories just waiting to be noticed.

Conventional behavior would have me behind the wheel of my truck or a rental van to get to and from the locations I need to visit. The windows would be up, air conditioner on, and whatever talk show I could find would be struggling to push out the boredom of sitting in a plush chair with not much to do. That's probably why so many people drive with a cell phone to their ear.

I rode out to an experimental forest today to see how a small tract of forestland was being mapped and cataloged using the latest technology available. In order to identify the exact location of every stem, every species, and every diameter requires a lot of careful attention.

Scanning the gravel road surface for obstacles and loose areas, executing turns, applying throttle and brakes, the whole mechanical process of riding fuels a change in consciousness. Details grow larger and I see more. You need to be conscious and see more if you want to manage risk better. The resultant rise in awareness has benefits for a photographer. I notice things. Like the Luna Moth. I see differently now than I did when I wasn't riding. It is easier to see foreground, background, subject, color, and light almost instantaneously. My eye pours over the viewfinder with a restlessness that just wasn't there a few years ago. And I'm patient. Maybe it's the digital camera or the onset of maturity but I can't help but see a parallel between the ways I see while riding with photography.

I'm grateful to have a profession that places me out in the world and gives me a chance to look out across the natural landscapes here like this view out towards Tussey Mountain. On the way back to the office I stopped to look at a small creek running along the road. This homemade sign for Snake Hill Stables caught my eye and I just had to make a picture.

I can't take the Vespa on every assignment. Sometimes I need room for passengers, have too much gear to haul along, or the scooter just is not a reasonable choice for some hi-speed, long-distance trips. But for many of them within 50 miles it's ideal.

The GTS easily hauls a big camera bag and tripod that suitable for a lot of work. This past Monday I had to ride out to photograph an irrigation project, something not typical in Pennsylvania, and the Vespa was more than adequate.

So now I'm faced with a dilemma---how to deal with this new area of riding. I'm not sure what the policy is concerning blogging about work activity. I suppose I'll have to ask.


Bryce Lee said...

Was wondering with all your riding
how your sore shoulder and arm were

Steve Williams said...

bryce: Shoulder is fine. Just a severe strain to the rotator cuff. Ice, stretching, ibruprofen, and time have healed me.

A trip to the orthopedic surgeon for a check confirmed all is well.

gary said...

I'm so glad this new occupational direction fits in with riding. As you know, I incorporate my motorbikes as much as possible into my job, as well.

But I know I have to be careful about how much of that business I can reveal on the blog. Anything I write can and will be used against me...

Your situation is probably different, however. Academia is more tolerant than competitive commerce to this sort of thing.

Great thoughts, and great photos Steve.

Ride well,

Phil said...


Another great day behind your Vespa. I see you have camera bags and not a hard trunk. Have you ever consider a hard trunk or do you prefer soft bags for storage.


Eurastus said...


Yet another set of fine photos. I do so envy the results you turn in with such consistent basis. So pretty; every time.

I also appreciate your comments on my blog the other day. It makes me feel great that someone is visiting.

You might want to check the list of blogs on your main page, though. It looks like there's been a mix-up with the Hunting the Snark link. It sort of points to my blog, but not completely.

Thanks again, Steve. You're such an inspiration.


Steve Williams said...

gary: Since I can see myself taking more trips now it would be nice to be able to write about them a bit. I'll have to run the idea past some people to see what they think. It's one thing to keep a journal but a bit more public to maintain content on a blog....

Phil: I'm not sure exactly why I warmed more towards the soft bags. I like the way they look all crumpled up and how cloth looks when it gets used. The top cases on the Vespa look too clean for my taste perhaps. Not really sure though...

Eurastus: Thanks for your kind words about Scooter in the Sticks and also for the catch on the link. Amazing what omitting one quotation mark can do.

The header picture on your blog looks as if it could have been taken right down the road from here. Is it in Utah?

Vince Stevens said...

Glad the shoulder is healing well. Thanks for the visit to my blog, I appreciate your eye and ear and any critique you may have. I haven't missed an episode of Scooter in the Sticks yet!

Eurastus said...


Honestly, I don't know where the photo was taken; I received it from a friend quite some time back. Seems like it was several years ago, but I'm not sure.

He and I were planning a multi-surface bicycle trip and he sent the image with a note saying "I don't know where this is, but that's where I want to go."

I've so enjoyed the thoughts of slight adventure that the photo brings to my mind ever since.

I intend to replace it with a local image I've taken myself, but haven't come up with an equally fine shot yet.


Corry O'Neill said...

Hi Steve,

You placed a card on my ET4 parked in front of Duffy's in Boalsburg. I read your blogs and enjoyed them, as I did your beautiful photos. I've had my Vespa for around 3 years now, and it is my primary mode of transportation. I just moved to Boalsburg. My wife is getting her doctorate at PSU. I was working on mine at the University of Virginia in Religious Studies, but that didn't work out. We lived in State College about 10 years ago, and it is nice to be back in Central PA; the landscape is glorious as you've indicated by your photos. Thanks for the contact. I'll certainly take advantage of some of the links you've provided on your blog.



Steve Williams said...

vince: Glad you find something interesting here. I keep finding more things to write about.

eurastus: I'll keep looking for the new image. It will be hard to top that one.

corry: I kept seeing your scooter around so when I actually passed by I thought I would drop a card. I like the chrome crash bars. Could have used them a couple weeks ago.
The Vespa is a nice way to meet personal transportation needs.

If I see you around town sometime I'll stop to say hello!

S u n d a n c e said...

You said it! It's funny how focusing on riding actually helps you slow down enough to see more detail.

It reminds me of the focus in the Matrix movies where everything slows down to the heroes but looks sped up to the world.